Collegiate and university recruitment of foreign athletes is more vigorous than ever.. Whether it is a nationally ranked Division I basketball program trying to gain a competitive edge in the NCAA Tournament, or an Ivy League institution seeking to bolster the roster of its heavyweight crew team, institutions often recruit from abroad.
After the recruitment has concluded and the athlete has been accepted, the complex process of obtaining a student visa begins. Athletic department officials must work collaboratively with their institution’s foreign student office to understand the institution’s policies and procedures to ensure their foreign student athletes maintain compliance with immigration regulations. A student athlete being out of compliance will result in that athlete being unavailable to participate in their selected athletic endeavor. For example, if the athletic department withdraws a grant of financial aid to a foreign student athlete, the student would fall out of immigration compliance and may be removed from the country.
The athletic department, as part of the recruitment process of foreign student athletes should ascertain whether that athlete has any prior visa refusals or prior “poor choices” that could result in that student athlete being inadmissible to the United States without a waiver of inadmissibility being filed on behalf of the student athlete. Certain types of criminal convictions, for example, could bar a student athlete from entering the United States and thus be ineligible for the visa. Advanced knowledge of any potential issues is the key to avoiding visa problems.
Athletic department staff also should work closely with their foreign athletes to ensure that the athletes rigorously maintain their academic eligibility. The failure to maintain status as a full time student can affect a student athlete’s immigration status and, ultimately, can lead to removal (deportation).